Do You Let Your Debt Bully You?

ID-100206615I’ve mentioned that my birthday is approaching…the big 3-0…We don’t plan on doing much but we will be going out to dinner on two separate occasions, once with some family and another evening with some friends. I have decided that given I’ve spent quite literally, umm, maybe $50 total in the last three years on clothes, all of which are likely comfy clothes, I would buy myself a new shirt or two for the events. As well, I had the intentions of wearing them to a few other up coming events with work. I need clothes.

I don’t know where I got the number but I figured I would allow myself $100 to buy whatever I wanted (and could). Stipulation being they had to be real, grown-up (I am almost 30 now…), with no stretch, t-shirt quality or could pass as gym attire-real effin clothes. It’s not that I don’t enjoy clothing it’s just that I’m lazy, hate shopping and hate spending money on myself even more. This wasn’t always the case though, there was a time in my life (many years and about 15lbs ago) when I would dabble in fashion and give a crap what I looked like. I headed to the various websites of the stores I used to frequent and started my search. I found a few shirts I liked on one site, all of which would do just fine. I added them to my online bag and went to checkout but a strange thing happened, I couldn’t do it!

Immediately, I started talking myself out of it. I didn’t need them. I was wasting money. I’m being so selfish

As I sat there staring at the online cart, unable to push the ”pay now” button, I closed the browser and walked away.

Then it hit me. I am allowing my debt to bully me!

That asshole! Bossing me around telling me I can’t and shouldn’t do it! But guess what?! I’m going to! Not because I ”deserve it” or because I need them (which is a fact) but because I want to, I can, and because I have allowed it for myself.

I’m a responsible debt payer. My husband and I are working our buns off to pay this monster down and will be rid of it (mostly) within 36 (almost 35) months. We are in a position where I have made my extra debt payments like a good girl and I will allow myself to look presentable for my birthday. If I was slacking on the debt payments sure, likely not a great allocation of funds, but we hustled and we made it.

I didn’t go back and buy the items yet but I plan to. I’m going to go in the store instead since I don’t have time to wait for shipping arrival. These shirts better be as cute as I hoped, I have a point to prove ;)

Have you ever let your debt bully you out of a purchase?

If you’re unsure if you’ve ever fallen victim to debt bullying look for these signs:

  • Unnesessary mental back-talk
  • Cold sweats over the smallest of purchases
  • Talking yourself out of buying necessities (anything from bread to diapers)
  • Hoarding cash
  • Walking around like you permanatly live in a scene from ”Survivor” because you’re scared of buying real clothes
  • Ignoring all social engagments because you don’t want to spend the money, even though you budgeted for it
  • Not buying the items you want, and need in online shopping carts out of shame

Photo Credit

How Being in Debt Has Set Me Up For Retirement

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Where we currently spend our frugal summers. I could handle my summers in retirement with this view every day, if I ”had to” ;)

I’m quickly approaching my 30th birthday and I can admit that I have zero dollars saved for my retirement. While some people would rightfully be freaking out I’m totally calm.

I have a decent life right now, debt and all. I mentioned in my post outlining our debt payoff plan that my plan was a ”life happens” plan. Meaning, I fully expect life events to pop up and for this plan to still hold up. We’re currently not living so tight there is zero room to give, nor have we maximized every single outlet for increased income (should it look like we may have a ”low month”). We like our lives for what they are right now and enjoy the balance that we have between our jobs, family, interests and goals. If, once our debt is paid off we continued to live just the way we currently are-with cable, decent grocery budget, safe reliable vehicle with gas in it, clothes on our back, the odd frugal family getaway, I’d be content. I want more, but I know I could have a life that I would be content with.

Living on less has taught me well

While retirement experts suggest you aim for a retirement income of upwards of 70% of your current income, once our mortgage is paid off- and it will be years before retirement age- we’ll be very comfortable living on 40% our current income. Being in debt, and being forced to live such a lifestyle that allows us to have this balance between paying it off while still living, has taught us what we really need and are comfortable with. So while there is no reason why we can’t save enough for the projected ”expert” level of 70%, even if we’re late starters, if we come short I know we’ll be more than fine. Anything over 40% our current income is extra icing on the cake in my eyes.

Age isn’t really a factor…

Though starting to save for retirement into your early 30’s may be ”old” by some standards the fact is that we’re still young, we have great promising careers and nothing but income potential in front of us. If our income froze right now we’d still be ok given that we’re able to pay down our mortgage and put over $2,000 per month towards debt today. Though I have dreams of how I want to allocate that $2000 when the debt is paid off- broken up between retirement savings, vacation and a little more wiggle room in our current budget, it still comes down to the fact that I have more than $2000 per month to play with and funding retirement trumps all other plans. If we invested even half of that $2,000 each month we’re projected to hit a savings goal that would supply an annual income in retirement that would give us a very comfortable retirement, more money than I think we’d spend (but will obviously save anyway!).

Being in debt has shown me that we’re capable of some pretty amazing things when we’re forced into the situation. While I certainly don’t dream of a retirement with no fun or games, life has shown me that should we be forced into a situation we can always make the best of it. I’m glad we won’t be approaching retirement with nothing but room for disappointment. If I was setting myself up in life with expectations for a very lavish retirement and couldn’t do it, I’d be a mess. Retirement is not the stage in life where you’re forced, for the first time, to make theses sorts of financial changes. You’ll likely blow through your money too fast with no means of getting it back. I’m glad I learned the financial lessons I did, the hard way, while I was still young and able to carry my lessons learned forward in life.

Ridiculous Expense Edition: That Time I Spent $80 on a Light Bulb…

Today I have a guest post from the lovely Kayla over at Shoeaholicnomore!

During my freshman year of college I lived in the dorms. I’d never lived on my own, paid rent, or bought groceries (other than snacks to supplement the dorm’s food plan). To be honest, I didn’t have a lot of real world experience.

Toward the end of the year my then-fiancé and I were looking for an apartment and decided we didn’t want to spend more than $600/month on rent. Where we came up with that number I’ll never know, but that’s the budget we used.

After viewing nearly 50 properties of varying degrees of disgustingness, we finally found a place for just over our budget. The rent on this one bedroom was $620, but it included all utilities so we could use as much energy as we wanted!

The down-side of this “great find” was that it wasn’t in the best neighborhood and truthfully it needed a lot more than TLC. There was a spot in the living room where I refused to walk for fear of falling through the floor into the basement apartment below.

After some very dramatic events, I ended up renting the apartment by myself instead of with my ex. This meant that I had to come up with the rent money and all my other living expenses on my own while going to school full-time and working part-time. It was a tough time for me financially, and this is when I started to ignore my finances and get into debt.

Because the apartment was in a not-so-nice part of town, I left the outside porch light on all the time and I would commonly leave the radio and a light or two on inside while I was gone at work and class. My hope was that someone would think the apartment was occupied and thus I could avoid a break-in. The porch light also helped during the winter months when it would still be dark as I left in the morning and would be dark again before I returned home in the evenings.

Near the end of my lease in May, the porch light finally burned out. The worst part about this apartment was that the building was originally a single-family house built in 1911. It had very high ceilings and being a college student, I didn’t have a ladder to change the outside light bulb myself. I called my landlord and requested that the bulb be replaced and didn’t think anything about it until I got a bill for the “service”. They wanted $40 for changing that one light bulb!

Of course I thought it was ridiculous so I ignored the bill completely. When my lease was up and I got my deposit back I noticed that $80 was missing from my original deposit. After asking why it was missing, they sent me an invoice showing that $80 was deducted for the light bulb incident! I was annoyed, but I didn’t contest it and went on down the road.

Now that I’m more wise and aware of the world, and my finances, I realize I could’ve done things differently to avoid wasting that $80.

I could’ve ignored the bulb since I would be moving out anyhow and prayed they didn’t notice during the inspection. Total cost: $0-80 and a load of guilt, 0-100% savings

I could’ve asked a friend with a ladder to help me change the bulb. Total cost: about $5 for a new bulb, 94% savings

I could’ve paid the bill the first time around. Total cost: $40, 50% savings

I could’ve contested the $80 bill. Total cost: $40-80, 0-50% savings

I’ve certainly learned a lot about life and finances since then. Now I know better when faced with an expected charge on a bill: always question it the first time and avoid paying late charges/interest if at all possible.

Have you ever paid for a ridiculous expense?

Kayla is a mid-20s single girl living in the Midwest, USA. She is focused on paying off her consumer and student loans, while simplifying her life and closet. You can join her on her journey at Shoeaholicnomore.

Is The Personal Finance Community Too Judgmental?

wpid-20140713_232643.jpgWhen one opens their lives up on the internet be it though engaging in social media, blogging  or uploading cute pictures of your kids on Instagram, like it or not, you are willingly opening your lives up to outside criticism. This is especially true of blogging and a huge reason why it requires a bit of thick skin. You are, without a doubt, going to get backlash from casual readers to fellow bloggers. Creating a variance in conversation is what I love about blogging though so I welcome it, life would be pretty boring if people agreed with everything I said and did. We grow as people through exploration and accepting changes.

Last week I published a post titled ”How much is too much for groceries”. If you read my blog regularly, or even know me personally, you know I was by no means trying to ”bash” anyone or have a ”holier than thou” attitude. I was, in all honesty, looking to do what bloggers do best, create conversation. As someone who only spends about $500 per month on food, $800+ seemed like a lot to me, I didn’t say it was as lot for everyone nor was I trying to imply you’re a bad person if you spend more than what I spend on food every month, I genuinely wanted to know how far off the mark I was with my readers for average money spent per month, that’s it.

When comments started coming in, with quite a few new people popping up (thank you for stopping by), I was a little surprised at the interpretation of my post and other people’s comments. There was more than one comment stating in various words that the personal finance community was in general too judgmental (of non-PFers I imagine) and one person even said they limit their engagement within the community because of said judgement. While I thank you for your comment I feel like I need to defend the online community I am apart of, again please feel free to disagree.

While there is an extreme variance in what you will find within this community, everything from the extreme savers, early retirees, people in debt, millionaires, struggling students and everything in between, my experience is that people who blog and engage in this community do so to learn. We learn through interactions, posts, comments, arguments, reading, getting opinions, you name it. Though there has been many posts I disagree with I never felt that post was written in a judgmental tone, I simply have a difference of opinion, difference in experience or all together may think it is outright wrong. That doesn’t mean they are judging me for being different.

Had I written the post and finished with ” You’re all idiots and suck as humans if your family of six can’t or isn’t willing to eat on $400 per month” then yeah, that’s a judgmental and bitchy thing to do but for the most part the personal finance community offers opinions and questions to be challenged. My mission with the post in question was accomplished. People clearly pointed out how easily their family sustains themselves on $200-250 per week for a multitude of reasons and for that I thank you for offering me insight, even if I likely will never be in your position, I thank you for enlightening me, it was all I wanted.

I’ve said this before but I didn’t know personal finance was a ”thing”. I started this blog blindly and am so thankful for the internet niche I have stumbled into. Thank you for your comments, your encouragement, your disagreements and your lack of judgement when I’ve put myself out there. Maybe I’m alone but no, if we’re generalizing, the personal finance community is not judgement unless you include the personal challenges it may provoke, for that there is no apology.

I Asked and Got a Raise!

wpid-img_20130830_100750.jpgA few weeks ago I inquired on Twitter how often one should expect a raise and at what percentage. The most common response being ”annually, and inflation rate”.

I have never had to ask for a raise. I’ve negotiated my starting rate or salary but never had to ask for one. It was always given to me at a rate which I thought was fair but since being back to work from maternity leave, going on 16 months, I haven’t received one. Though I assumed it was an oversight by my employer, I decided to wait until the end of the summer (when my raises usually are) to approach the subject. When September rolled around with no pay increase was reflected on my pay stub, I brought it up.

My boss and I have a very casual relationship where we tend to do our best chatting via text and email. I work exclusively with him for 16 hours a week but we never actually have time to speak ourselves. We’re both very busy and no time to chat. Rather than just corner him one day during his only five minute breather, I planted a seed via text with a ”hey, I’d like to chat with you in the next week or two about a potential raise”. This way he knew I needed time and what it would be about. Nothing worse than catching your boss off guard when you want to talk about money.

I respected the fact that he was busy and waited a week. When we didn’t have time, and after he didn’t bring it up, I reminded him during one of our other conversations about work simply saying when he had a minute I was going to email him a document to look over regarding my potential raise.

My husband’s cousin works in HR and was able to provide me with a very detailed, province and city specified payroll document outlining basically everything about my job broken down by everything from years experience to dental specialty. It was a mecca of information and statistics. Though I was getting a fair wage, there was room for improvement based on this new found information exposing my entire field of work, I was prepared. I handed over the document and wanted to see what he thought was fair before I came at him with my (potential) counter offer.

I was also prepared to discuss my job, the vital roles I fill and my effectiveness as an employee. Though I was pretty sure he was aware at how vital I was after working together over five years, I was prepared none-the-less should the discussion come to it.

I was pleasantly surprised this week to see a 5% raise reflected on my pay stub. In my case there was very little negotiation actually took place. Once he had this document it was really all he needed and 5% was more than fair.

A few people have asked what I plan on doing with the raise, 75% will be going directly towards debt, helping me meet my goals and the other 25% being added to kiddos monthly RESP (education savings), no lifestyle inflation for this family, not yet at least ;)

Can We Pay Off $70,000 in 36 Months?

I was playing around with my trusty calculator last night to see where our debt stood. As of this month we owe a bit over $80,000 ($80,400). While this number seems impossibly large can we please remember that just two years ago our debt was closer to $109,000 (highest non-mortgage debt close to 116k). Since starting this blog, we’ve paid off $29,000 in principle debt, most of which was paid down in the last 15 months since my return to work full-time after my year long maternity leave.

While $29,000 is a decent accomplishment for 24 months by anyone’s standards, I’d like to attempt to kill $70,000 (of the remaining $80,000) in 36 months.

Why not worry about the other $10,000?…

The last debt that we’ll be paying off is my nationally issued student loan. A loan I currently make interest-only payments on and a loan which I can claim the interest paid as a tax deduction. Once the other $70,000 is paid off it will only take about five more months to pay this 10k loan off and again, all interest paid is a tax deduction where all other debt is not.

My Plan:

  • Pay off 0% interest loan first: $13,064 to be paid off in 12 months= $1088/month while making minimum required payments on all other debts. Total monthly debt total required: $2,064.
  • Come October 2015, 0% loan will be paid off and in following 24 months pay off remaining debt which includes student lines of credit and vehicle. I choose to pay the balance of the vehicle next for a few reasons. One, I like the idea of the vehicle being paid off in case something happens to it. Two, our auto insurance will likely decrease with paid off vehicle and three, it’s the largest single debt payment per month with a large portion going towards principle allowing us to pay it down quickly by snowballing out previous debt payments.
  • From Nov 2015- June 2016 (kiddo’s 4th bday!) pay off vehicle balance of what will be $13,200 (payment required $1,650/month)
  • From July 2016- Dec 2016 pay off two of three student lines of credit. Balance between the two will be about $9,800 (payment required $1735/month)
  • From December 2016-November 2017 (final payment the 1st of the month) pay off remaining $23,000 student line of credit (payment required $2,010/month).
  • December 2017 debt remaining (national student loan): 10,376 which will only take 5-6 months to pay off.

I have to be honest this is my ”life happens” plan. I’m fairly confident we should be able to do this. The evening out of some months being great and others not so great should make this plan possible. Though I am hopeful we can be done earler than projected, I have to remember that it takes $2,000 extra just to knock off one month of this plan so realistically this is the plan that we’ll execute within a month or two. Here’s hoping we can make this all possible!

How Much is Too Much for Groceries?

The other day I was reading one of my favorite personal finance magazines. Each issue they profile a person or family giving details of their entire financial life. I love reading about how other people live, even if they’re not at all comparable to my situation.

Anyway, this particular family wasn’t too far off from our financial picture in terms of income. Though our income is brought in between two working individuals, this family had one income (albeit large) while mom stayed home with two young children and managed everything else in the home. What always surprises me when reading these profiles like this, is how much money families and individuals delegate for groceries.

In these profiles, groceries are separated from eating out so it’s not one generic ‘’food’’ line.

This family of four, two adults, two young kids (under five I believe), budget $9,800 per year for groceries. In case you don’t feel like doing the math, that’s over $800 per month for a family living in one of Canada’s largest and most financially stable cities. I just can’t see how?

We live in a fairly expensive city in terms of food, not outrageous but the high price of gas alone on this side of the country drives food prices up. For our family of three, on an expensive month we might spend $500. I buy a lot of fresh produce and lean meat. Even if we add another mouth to feed, the max our grocery bill would get to is maybe $550 and I really think we could sustain our family’s food budget at the $450-500 mark no problem even with the fourth mouth to feed.

What are these people eating for $800 per month? I buy decent meat and produce. Are they buying pre-packaged meals for that amout of money? I just don’t understand. Even if we add in stuff like toilet paper and cleaning stuff throw in an additional $10 per month…

Keeping food costs down can be a callange. It requires planning, there’s no way about it. Every week my husband and I spend probably 30 minutes planning out our week of meals and I go to the flyers to seek out the best deals. If we plan a meal I don’t think is feisable that week, we wait for the ingrediants to go on sale and decide on something else. The more we plan and get organized, the easier it is. I constantly look for new recipes that I can make for cheap, are healthy and provide a large meal. I just made a huge batch of soup for dinner and we now have lunches for the next two days, total cost was less than $9.00 for six adult-size servings and this was expensive in my mind for a soup.

I could think of a lot I could do with $300 per month. In this situation the mom was concerned they wern’t saving enough for the kids post secondary, if they’re that concerend (though at the end of the day they had more than enough to invest), they could start by looking at their variable espenses like their food because I can tell you without a doubt there is no reason to spend that kind of money on groceries!

How much do you spend on groceries? Are you comfortable with this amount or would you rather spend more/less?

Get to Know Me! I was Nominated For the Versatile Bloggers Award!

versatile-blogger-awardI’d like to thank Jordann for nominating me for this fun award. I love getting to ‘’know’’ other bloggers from around the web though don’t know how interesting my facts will be!

Seven random facts you probably don’t know about me (even though I feel like my entire life is on the internet).

  1. I love gross stuff, nasty teeth included

My two favorite undergrad courses were entomology (study of insects) and parasitology (study of parasites). Nothing cooler than looking at a hookworm under a microscope, eh? And your mouth? Yeah, there’s nothing I haven’t seen, trust me. I’ve seen everything from the sever drug user to the 58 year old who has never been to the dentist before so no, you really don’t have to apologize for eating a muffin before coming in to see me. Nothing more satisfying than a good ‘’before’’ and ‘’after’’ ;)

  1. I have zero self control with sweets

As long as I don’t have them around me I’m ok but if it’s in the house I eat it until it’s gone or I’m physically ill. Nutella is the worst.

  1. I love reading

The Outlander series is consuming my life right now. My sister-in-law has been after me for years to read the books but it didn’t seem like my type of book so kept putting it off. I also get really board with series. She finally convinced me when the first book was made into a show and told me how good it was…I started the first book and was hooked after about 200 pages. I’m now binge reading, almost done the second book (each book is almost 1000 pages). Hoping to be on the third book by the time this post is published.

  1. I’ve held a book published in 1758

When I was in university I did a class on science and religion. We needed to profile a person who was known in both circles and I chose Carl Linnaeus, who is considered the father of modern day biological classification system. Anyway he wrote a famous book called Systema Naturae and when doing said paper I was fortunate to go to a library that held one of the original copies of the book. It involved going into a humidity controlled and secured room and swearing on my life I wouldn’t harm the book. One of my favorite university experiences.

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  1. I love to color

I could spend hours with a new box of crayola crayons and a coloring book. Both of which I have around all the time now because of kiddo except she snaps the crayons in half and my soul dies a little each time.

  1. I love playing games

My idea of a good night is hanging out with all my best friends and/or family and playing games. Anything from crib to Cards Against Humanity!

  1. I would love to move to Germany

My husband and I lust for a move to Europe. I would love to raise my daughter there (hello Germany now offers free tuition!) but for many reasons we can’t, at least right now. I can’t imagine pulling my daughter away from all the people who love her here so our dream will have to wait, maybe some day.1914000_590942689899_3013122_n

Now, the seven bloggers I’m nominating to also partake in the challenge:

September 2014 Debt Repayment Update!

wpid-img_20140928_134041.jpgSoooo where did September go? Fastest month all year, by far. Last weekend was a stunning way to end the summer. It was sunny, incredibly warm and the perfect way to say goodbye to summer 2014. After looking at the weather on Saturday my sister-in-law and I quickly decided to figure out a way to get outside on Sunday and enjoy what Mother Nature was gracing us with. We went for a little drive and went for a hike and it was beautiful. A spot I drive by many times but never go to but will definitely be going back before snowfall! The photo was taken at the top of the hill we climbed.

September was a decent month for us. I was able to put a total of $2,100 towards debt. I was really hoping to put $2,200 but came short by just $100 which is about the amount I needed to re-add to our ER fund. An extra $665 is pretty decent though so I’ll take it. I worked a few extra shifts in September and though I hated every second of that five-day work week (hated the time spent at work, not the job), I liked the extra cash. First world problems, I guess.

I had an ambitious goal last October of putting 20k towards our principal debt by end of 2014 but I don’t think it’s going to happen. I haven’t done all the number crunching yet but it’s looking like I’ll be short by $2,500-$3,000. I know $18,000 in principle debt paid is still great but I hate not meeting my goal!

If you follow me on Twitter you probably saw that my new computer decided to crap out on me the other day. We’re still not sure what’s going on but in the process of getting it taken care of this week hopefully. My heart sank as I thought about my forecasted budget being lost…done until February 2015 with notes galore reminding me of stuff. I accepted it may be gone, at the very least I have zero access to it right now, so I re-did the whole thing from scratch (with major help from my husband) and it’s now a Google doc. Why I didn’t do this in the first place. Now I’m just hoping I didn’t lose the 8G worth of pictures I just uploaded from my sD card, 14 months worth of photos. UGH. Fingers crossed the issue is a warranty fix and my darling two-year-old didn’t dump water/juice/freezie/spit on it without me knowing while watching ”Frozen” for the 2828412584 time.

I know Jordann is kicking ass and trying to make that 25k Net Worth by her 25th birthday….How did everyone else do?

How Do You Fight Emotional Spending?

My kiddo has been quite  clingy the last few days, I managed to snap a picture of her needing to hold my hand :)

I’d rather just do this.

There was a time in my life where I would spend money on crap I thought I needed but really I was looking to fill some ill feeling. I was never one to shop when I was super happy, only when I was bummed out about something. Usually an emotional thing that I didn’t want to deal with. Retail therapy allowed me to procrastinate with facing the issue and often, temporarily, eased the discomfort. I was always in my right mind to know even at the time exactly what I was doing but did it anyway, often leaving me feeling worse for wasting money.

I honestly don’t know what or when things changed for me but this isn’t something I do anymore. It’s not even anything I want to do. Sure there are things I want but I no longer shop emotionally. I’m going to assume the tiny human I care for has a huge part in this but I can’t say for sure I changed as soon as I became pregnant but I’m sure my lack of free time has a lot to do with it!

I don’t really get trigger happy to buy crap I don’t need, instead I’d rather watch my debt go down. Seeing that number decrease is enough for me to say ”I don’t really want that” and don’t give it a second thought but not everyone is like that. I feel like I’m a minority in my life. Most of my peers would much rather have that new toy than not. I don’t think it’s a keeping up with the Joneses thing, I really think they just want to buy stuff for them rather than to say ”look what I have and you don’t”.

Fighting the Urge

It can be tough to resist your desires to waste money. If you’re looking to spend money on something you need to figure out if this is an emotional purchase. If you’re not in the most sound state of mind, walk away from the purchase. If you still think you really want, or need said item after the emotions have chilled out a bit, return to it but while you’re in any sort of emotional distress, don’t buy anything or you may come to regret it.

Keeping a list of needs with you may help distinguish between a true want and need. Since we’re more apt to spend money when we’re not thinking clearly, having a go-to list may help. This may sound crazy to some but something both my husband and I do. While this list includes wants as well as needs it acts as a good reference, I really need a new pair of scrub pants for work since putting a hole through them, I don’t need a three tier cookie rack for baking. Sometimes I just need to look at the list to remind myself.

Another trick is to just leave your wallet at home if you don’t think you can be trusted. I know a certain sister of mine who would do a lot better if she just didn’t have the immediate access to cash all the time. After a crappy day at work I can guarantee you can find her at some local store looking for something to buy. Even though it may not be a lot of money these purchases add up over time, as do the house full of trinkets you don’t need.

Money is a very powerful in the sense that it can make us feel really good, or really bad. Distinguishing that wasting money on stuff won’t make us feel better for any length of time is a difficult skill to learn. The sooner we do, the better our bank accounts will look. How, when, where and why did you overcome the need for retail therapy?